Dodgers beat Brewers to stay alive in NL West race; Julio Urías gets 20th win

The odds of the Dodgers staying alive Saturday in their maddening quest for a ninth consecutive National League West title weren’t pretty.

The Dodgers first needed the San Diego Padres — a miserable, disappointing collection of talent this season — to topple the 106-win San Francisco Giants. Minutes before that game started, a report surfaced that the Padres planned on firing manager Jayce Tingler once the season ended Sunday. The Padres quickly called the news “premature.” The word “false” didn’t make the cut. Tingler was a lame duck for another 24 hours. It didn’t look good for the Dodgers.

And yet the Padres came through for the Dodgers, ending a seven-game skid with a 3-2, 10-inning win in San Francisco that prompted cheers at Dodger Stadium. The result slightly increased the Dodgers’ 9.5% chance of winning the division, according to FanGraphs. But games aren’t played on a TI-83, and the Dodgers needed to beat the Milwaukee Brewers for the second straight night.

They stayed in the hunt with a breezy 8-3 win to set up a dramatic Sunday. A victory and a Giants loss and the clubs play a tiebreaking Game 163 at Oracle Park on Monday. A loss or a Giants win and the Giants officially end the Dodgers’ reign. Both games — as all across major league baseball tomorrow — start at 12:10 p.m. Pacific time.

The Brewers (95-66) scored a run against Julio Urías in the top of the first inning before Justin Turner smashed a three-run home run off Corbin Burnes, a leading Cy Young Award candidate, to snatch a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

For Turner, it was his 27th home run, tying a career high he set in 2016 and 2019. For Burnes, it was the low point in a short workday.

The Dodgers’ Justin Turner watches his three-run home run during the first inning.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The Dodgers (105-56) caught a break when Brewers manager Craig Counsell, whose team has already claimed the NL Central crown, removed Burnes after two innings. The right-hander exited with a league-leading 2.43 earned-run average, just ahead of Max Scherzer’s 2.46. Burnes, as a result, clinched the ERA title unless the Dodgers force a Game 163, which Scherzer would start.

The Dodgers capitalized on the move, tacking on three runs in the fourth inning off Colin Rea to render the contest a rout. AJ Pollock capped the surge with a two-run home run, his 21st of the season, effectively cementing drama for Sunday’s season finale.

The Giants’ result had a direct impact on Urías’s usage. If the Giants won, his outing likely would have been cut short to keep him fresher for a possible relief appearance in Wednesday’s wild-card game against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Giants’ loss triggered a normal workload as Urías sought to become the Dodgers’ first 20-game winner since Clayton Kershaw.

Dodgers left-hander Julio Urías improved to 20-3 on the season with the win.

Dodgers left-hander Julio Urías improved to 20-3 on the season with the win.

(Associated Press)

Urías responded with a dominant outing to conclude his breakout season. The left-hander held Milwaukee to one run on one hit across 6 1/3 innings, lowering his ERA to 2.96 over 185 2/3 innings. He walked off the mound in the seventh inning to a rousing ovation. He acknowledged the fans with a raised right fist.

The Dodgers originally planned on using Urías in the postseason as their No. 4 starter and a reliever in a hybrid role like the one he starred in last October. Kershaw’s injury Friday changed that.

The Dodgers' AJ Pollock hits a two-run homer during the fourth inning Oct. 2, 2021.

The Dodgers’ AJ Pollock hits a two-run homer during the fourth inning.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The Dodgers officially placed Kershaw on the injured list Saturday with “left forearm discomfort” — the same ailment that kept him off the mound for over two months — after the left-hander departed Friday’s game in the second inning. Right-hander Mitch White was called up to take Kershaw’s spot on the roster. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw will undergo further testing Monday.

Roberts on Saturday confirmed that the club will proceed as if Kershaw, an impending free agent, won’t throw another pitch in 2021.

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey smiles after throwing out the first pitch at the Dodgers game Oct. 2, 2021.

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey was all smiles after throwing out the first pitch Saturday night.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

“I think we all knew the possibility that it could get to this point,” Roberts said. “He was determined to do everything he could in his power to see this thing through this year, to be a part of it, as he noted [Friday] night. And, unfortunately, it gave way [Friday] night. But we kind of knew the potential, the possibility that this might happen.”

So, the Dodgers will participate in a postseason without Kershaw for the first time since 2006 — eight division titles, three World Series appearances and one championship ago. The New York Mets swept them 3-0 in the National League Division Series that year. Whether they even play in the NLDS in 2021 remains unknown, but Saturday’s results ensured that the preferred route there — a division title — isn’t closed quite yet.

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